Following the rains and massive floods of Elba and Danube in 2002, EU decided to take action. In 2007 the European Floods Directive was out. In Austria it was transposed into national law in 2011.
390 areas of potential significant flood risk were identified merely in Austria and Schladming was under such a risk, notes Rudolf Hornich, coordinator for flood risk management in Steiermark.
All Member States need to report on their risk maps and hazard maps. “The maps were here finished in 2013. It is an important support for rescue organizations such as firefighters as they provide indication of depth, spatial data etc.” adds Hornich.
Heaviest floods hit Schladming in 2002 as well when three bridges collapsed, it was “a once in a 100-year flood”. The first protection strategy came out in 2004.
Since those days it became clear that it was important to train the people on how to defend themselves against floods. That means “how to protect their possessions, their houses; a simple exemplary case – protect the cellars – when floods reach the rather low height (5 cm oftentimes) water pours into the cellars.” So they should be the ones to get the first ‘life buoy’. Preparations, however, go even to schools in special educative lessons – Bieber Berty (Beaver Berty) acts as the connoisseur that explains the young ones how to act in case of flood related emergency.
Climate change makes the big case though. In some parts of Styria, flash rains fall rather often; they are very quick and in large quantities, so that is the challenge on the short and medium term for the community.
The works that followed consisted of safe diversions on the river Enns and natural levees made of rock that give a genuine wild look to the river bank.
“Diverting the river started 150 years ago under Franz Joseph as they were draining the river for agricultural purposes. Now, however, we are focusing on restoring natural habitats, mostly aquatic species” – fish and batrachians.
Engelbert Schmidt, Avalanche Manager in Steiermark, has shown works on damming and leveeing torrents that complete the water related risk assessments. In 1999 the community wanted to host world ski championships and the need to reinforce the valley became an organizing condition to protect against avalanches and landslides.